Friday, 8 June 2012


Such is the freshness and quality of Koya, that I had no regrets heading there just a couple of weeks after I got back from Japan. Misato perhaps might have been a sensory overload too far, but Koya is the real deal. The decor is clean, slick and uncomplicated; perfect modern Japan, and the food is authentic to the extent of the udon being kneaded daily by foot. Even the stocky smells took me back instantly.

The kakuni pork belly (£6.70) in an apple cider glaze doesn't' necessarily sound too Japanese beyond the name, but the subtle soy is redolent through the sweetness, making it the real deal.

A great special was a venison and new-season asparagus salad, about £8. This was intriguing and showed that Koya can be a little bit more adventurous with its specials (more reason to revisit frequently) – and also holds up the Japanese veneration for the seasons and their produce. A fantastic modern dish.

I had curry udon (£9.90), which of course isn’t the most discrete, delicate udon but despite moaning about it the whole time in Japan, I actually never had it because it was ubiquitous enough that I’d order something else, confident I could just get a curry udon any time. But I never did.

The noodles were perfect. Soft, but string with that elastic bite – and the sauce was pure sweet, tangy comfort. How they manage to combine the soup stock with Japanese curry and leave only the tiniest layer of viscosity I’ll never know. This could have been very stodgy and unhealthy tasting, but it wasn’t at all.

The Piglet had tempura scallops (along with the venison rather than noodles) and to form, the batter was light and grease-free and the scallops were hugely flavoursome.

It’s hard to believe Koya is only two years old, as it’s become a mainstay of both the Soho hot spot and the London Japanese food scenes. Service is efficient, prices are about fair and they have all the sake, beer, shochu and plum wine you could ever need.

What a great indulgence it is to be able to briefly transport yourself away to modern Tokyo so easily. Having been, I appreciate it so much more, not that I didn’t love it beforehand. You could convincingly be in a riverside joint in Nakameguro. No wonder all the potentially homesick Japanese clientele seemed perfectly sated and at ease, slurping their cold udon... 

Food – 9/10
Drink – 8/10
Service - 7/10
Value – 7/10
Tap water tales – 8/10
Staff Hotness – 6/10

Koya on Urbanspoon 
Square Meal


  1. Food wise, don’t expect either value for money or taste sensations. Our enduring imagine of Koya, is that they could learn a trick or two from some well known chains. The kamo roast duck breast was basically executed with a flat soy soup, some spring onions and a knock-your-head-off wasabi paste; completely unbalanced.
    Value hunters beware; your dinner money would be better spent elsewhere…

  2. Which chains do you think they could learn from, and what precisely? I'm genuinely interested, because I still find it one of the most authentic Japanese places we have.